Thursday, July 20, 2006

The invasion

Today, a country sent troops into its neighbor, not for the first time. The neighbor's seat of government was seriously impacted by the intervention and its fragile regime's credibility undermined even more. The military action wasn't that surprising after the prime minister declared that the Islamists' presence was a threat to his own country's security.

Still, the Ethiopian incursion into Somalia is a curious thing. A militia run by Islamist courts controls almost all of Mogadishu and is threatening to overrun the entire country. The country does have an internationally recognized transitional national government (TNG) agreed upon at a national conference but it's weak and is presently seated at Baidoa, rather than the official capital of Mogadishu.

(Note: The northwest part of Somalia seceded from the mess some years ago and is now the Republic of Somaliland. Though it is a peaceful country with all the functioning institutions of a normal country, its sovereignty is not recognized by any other countries)

According to reports, the Islamists have brought much needed law and order to Mogadishu. Much like when the Taliban entered Kabul in 1996, the population was hopeful that Islamists would bring stability to the chaos.

In the battle for Mogadishu, the CIA backed warlords fighting the Islamist militias. Much like during the Cold War, Washington did care if it backed crooks and murderers so long as they were our crooks and murderers. But as the former Mujahadeen-turned-Taliban demonstrated, no one is obliged to remain our crooks and murderers forever.

This is a missed opportunity for the Bush administration to help bring back a sense of normalcy to the country. Rather than backing the thugs who called themselves anti-Islamist, Washington should've taken the chance to given as much support as possible to the TNG. Hard line fundamentalist regimes thrive in the vacuum of anarchy. That's why the Taliban and Somali Islamists (and for that matter, the Ayatollah in Iran) were so heartily welcomed when they first arrived.

The TNG has denied suggestions that it invited the Ethiopians to protect Baidoa; in fact, they deny that Ethopian troops are in the city at all. The Ethopians have promised to attack if the Islamists come anywhere near Baidoa.

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